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Consider a typical school year. Children read leveled books in groups, perhaps get to choose a story once-a-week at the school library. They have spent ten months ‘at work’, writing what they have been told to write, practicing spelling or sight words, been pressed to finish tasks in order to cover a demanding curriculum. They have been asked to edit their work according to the rules of grammar, punctuation and visual appeal. Now it’s time for a break.
Summer vacation is the perfect time to seize teachable moments though play and fun. Rather than fretting over the dreaded ‘summer slide’, parents can seek out play opportunities that develop life and early literacy skills naturally and provide play opportunities to encourage them.
In the summer holidays, kids have the chance to explore the public library and choose as many stories as they please, to enjoy any way they want to. Without the time commitment of homework, they can leisurely gaze at pictures, dream up their own version of stories, find every little grasshopper and spider in the Little Critter books, or listen to favorite storytellers read to them over and over again.
Here are some more specific ways to fit early literacy skills naturally into summer fun:
Use clean paintbrushes and water to paint ‘disappearing messages’ on the driveway, wall or pool deck
Create a city with roads for bikes or ride-ons, and label everyone’s homes, the school, grocery store, restaurants, streets etc. Drive around the city!
Making treasure maps and scavenger hunts lead to great adventure!
On a road trip:
Play License plate games – look for plates that spell something, plates that are similar to one another, start at ‘A’ and take turns finding the letters of the alphabet, familiar names, or another word
How many familiar words can are on the road? Have the kids bring a notepad and keep track by making a tally, a checkmark, small picture or even writing the word if they want to. They will be thrilled to discover how much they can read when they count every stop sign, McDonald’s, familiar coffee shop, store, and other repetitive words and symbols on they pass.
Indoor Activities (that work outdoors too):
Make believe and role playing. Police officers read car computers and write tickets. Doctors write prescriptions. Teachers read stories and write on the chalkboard. When engage in social play, they develop oral language. Parents and caregivers can provide the tools that inspire reading and writing.
Important jobs: to do lists, to pack lists, shopping lists etc. Shopping? Take your assistant with you to check off the items on the list. Loading the car? Same idea. Hosting a party? Send around your little waiter or waitress with a special notepad for drink orders. Guess who feels important now?
Print or pull out old photos or use magazine clippings. Create a silly homemade storybook yourself for fun, and before you know it, the kids will want to make their own. Let you kids decide if it will be a book of memories or a crazy-hilarious, fictional story that changes the entire meaning of the photos!
After a relaxing summer of fun, with skills maintained and consolidated, kids will be ready to enter the new school year with an extra boost of confidence.
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